Archives: Sermon Follow Up

The Secret To Overcoming Loneliness

Loneliness

It’s amazing to me that the things we do to “live it up” actually leave us feeling less alive.

Real life must not look like our ways living, because our living leaves us lonely.

Loneliness is an epidemic in our culture. With so many surface-level ways to connect, we long for something deeper and real. We want to be known and to know.

A recent study showed that those who “over share” on Facebook are 98% more likely to confess that they are lonely (read the article here).

That’s the offer Jesus gives us: He gives us an invitation into a relationship where we are known completely and loved anyway.

That sounds wonderful and simple. Until you let Jesus talk about it…

“I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:24-25 ESV

This past Sunday I told my friends at Vortex “if you really want to live, you need to die every day.”

That’s crazy talk.

It makes more sense to say this: “If you really want to live, do every thing within your power to nurture and sustain your life.”

That’s not what Jesus says about living, though.

In John 12, Jesus tells us that if we try to keep our lives, we’ll end up all alone, but if we’re willing to let go of our lives we’ll gain His kind of life… a life that never ends.

If you’re struggling with loneliness, you’re most likely struggling within your relationship with Jesus. You’re probably overcommitted to something that’s very comfortable but holding you back from Him.

The secret to overcoming loneliness lies in what Jesus describes the grain of wheat does… it falls into the earth and dies.

Leave your comfort zone behind.

Die to yourself.

Embrace His life coming alive inside you.

Follow His voice as it’s revealed in the Scriptures and personally.

And… you know what? You’ll find a life that matters, has meaning, and repels loneliness.

It’s funny isn’t it? Dying is the gateway to living.

“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.’ Luke 9:23-24 (NLT)

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In what ways do you need to die to yourself to embrace the life Jesus wants to give you?

Focus On The Finish

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My friend Seth won the North Carolina Championship 5K this past weekend.

Seth is a part of our church staff. He actually moved to North Carolina to be a part of Vortex and has been a super valuable member of the team since well before we launched.

Seth is a natural runner. He ran cross-country in high school when I was his Youth Pastor. He received a scholarship to run in college. Even after college, he’s continued to run competitively having just completed a marathon on trails in the Appalachian Mountains.

Seth told me something when we were talking about this past weekend’s race that has stuck out in my mind…

“The whole race me and Bill (the second place finisher) were shoulder to shoulder. My body kept telling me ‘Let’s quit. We can’t keep this pace.’ You just have to ignore what your body is saying, take the next stride, and focus on the end of the race.”

If you’re married, there’s going to come a moment when everything inside your natural body is saying, “Quit… This isn’t worth it!”

That’s when Seth’s story becomes vital…

  • “Ignore what your body is saying”. You have feelings that lie to you. You have expectations that probably aren’t healthy or even communicated. Ignore them and do what’s right anyway.
  • “Take the next stride”. Don’t stop, because stopping creates a different kind of death. Simply take the next step. Focus on the incremental changes, don’t expect immediate rescue, and keep moving!
  • “Focus on the end of the race”. Commit to your spouse, in your heart, and before Jesus that divorce is off the table. Stay focused on finishing the race, because that’s God’s plan!

“I hate divorce… So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” Malachi 2:16

Focus on the finish. It brings everything, even this moment, into perspective.

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What do you need to do to shift your focus from this moment to the finish?

The Biggest Lie You’re Telling Right Now

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Every relationship relies on communication.

We often think of relationships through titles… boyfriend, mother, best friend, wife, boss, next-door neighbor, etc.

Relationships can perhaps be defined by titles, but they exist because we’re working to associate with each other. One of the main ways we do that is through conversation.

Think about your relationship with Jesus… it’s sustained by prayer, which is simply an ongoing conversation with Him. If conversation is that vital to our relationship with God, it’s probably going to be important in all of them.

Not all of our efforts to communicate are effective, however. If we’re honest, some of them just flat-out stink.

Here are a few standard ways we stink at communicating in our relationships…

  • Deflection. When someone tries to talk to you about something that has to do with you, you deflect the attention to something that has to do with them.
  • Reduction. We all have big problems in our lives. A reduction is when we reduce a problem’s significance. A reduction takes a big problem and talks about it like it’s insignificant.
  • Amplification. This is where someone takes a small issue and blows it up into a huge one, often to try to shift the attention from a bigger issue that’s perhaps more uncomfortable.
  • Explosion. If a difficult conversation is going a direction you’re uncomfortable with, a full-on blow up will increase the intensity of the conversation. This is often the result of someone feeling extremely vulnerable and out-of-control.

The most ineffective way we communicate is telling a lie.

Jesus took the truth so serious that He defined himself as The Truth (John 14:6). When we lie, we don’t tell the truth. This one act communicates one simple truth: we don’t trust Jesus completely.

The difficult thing to accept is that many of us are telling lies right now, but perhaps in a way that you’re not aware of.

The biggest lie you’re probably telling is something that you’re NOT saying.

I’d like to call that an OMISSION.

Here’s a few reasons we don’t talk about important things…

  1. “We’ve already talked about this.” This is a lie that we’ve believed where we think that just because we had a past conversation about this general topic, it’s covered under that umbrella. It’s where the guy who told his wife he loved her on their wedding day, gets the idea that h doesn’t need to tell her that again.
  2. “It’s going to cause a fight.” Yep, it probably is. And, that’s probably a good thing. You most likely NEED that fight to gain some central ground. And… If you run away from it, you’ll be missing out on something that you most likely need.
  3. “They don’t need to know.” Who said that… You? You decided they don’t need to know about something that’s important and could affect them? If something’s important to someone, you talk to them about it.
  4. “I’d rather not tell them.” An intentional omission is the brother to an intentional lie. If you’re not telling them, there’s a reason. Not telling someone, intentionally, is denying a very important level of vulnerability and intimacy to your relationship.

Here’s the big reason we need to talk about important things:
When we don’t talk about important things, our enemy has the chance to fill in the gaps with lies.

Our enemy is described as the “Father of Lies” in the Scriptures (John 8:44). That means that one of the most significant attacks that we are consistently under is an attack on the truth.

So… why not make every effort to make sure the truth is talked about?

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Here’s three things you might want to do today to respond to this:

  1. Tell somebody important “I love you.” Maybe even tell them why.
  2. Take a moment to remind your kids that you believe in them and that you’re always going to be there for them no matter what they’re facing.
  3. Drop a note to someone who’s made a difference in your life and remind them how much you appreciate what they’ve done for you

What else could we do to have a conversation that we’ve been omitting?

One Thing That Would Change Everything

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This past Sunday we started a new series that’s leading up to Easter based on the last week of Jesus.

That week starts as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey and is hailed as a king. A homeless prophet is heralded as royalty, but knows in the back of his mind… this all about to end.

In the next seven days Jesus would be betrayed, murdered, buried in a borrowed tomb, and ultimately He would raise to life as He defeated sin and death forever.

Now… that’s a week!

In that last week Jesus showed us a few key principles that should consistently define our lives.

Jesus customarily visited the temple upon coming to Jerusalem. This trip wouldn’t be any different. Jesus wakes up after being celebrated like a rock star and went to the temple.

This visit would change everything.

There were two groups of people in the temple that Jesus took issue with: those exchanging currency (the money-changers) and those who were selling pigeons.

The money-changers were turning a profit by charging high exchange rates to people who showed up with an less preferred currency. They set up shop in a sacred space to make money off the people who showed up to worship. The folks selling the doves were in the same boat. Instead of the worshippers providing their own sacrifices, these guys were making money by offering a quick-fix solution.

Even though Jesus had visited the temple the night before and seen the same things, it was now time to do something about it.

Jesus grabbed a whip and drove the merchants out of the temple.

It was time to do something.

What’s one thing that would change if you found out that you had one week left to live?

You’d DO something different.

In His last week Jesus lived unapologetically motivated by a passion to follow His Father.

As He cracked the whip in the temple, he told them “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’, but you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:17)

That moment of passion ignited a hate for Jesus among the religious leaders that ended in Jesus execution.

There’s one thing that could change everything: a passion that compels us to do something.

What have you been putting off?

What has God called you to do that you’ve been refusing to respond to?

Where is that passion?

3 Tools For Today

This past sermon series, ‘Forget You’ wasn’t for everyone. I get that.

This series had a lot to do with how we think about ourselves.

People think about themselves in four different ways…

  1. They, themselves, are their own God. They are their own center and their lives worship themselves. Other people are generally expected to do the same thing.
  2. They think of themselves as a friend. They’re not bad people. There’s nothing wrong with asserting their needs and their perspectives, because they’re not bad. They’re most likely not the center of their own lives, but they most likely struggle with giving themselves too much attention.
  3. They dislike themselves. These are those people who are brutally aware of their faults, but they elevate their faults to become their identity. What’s odd is that often they are the center of their lives in all of their brokenness.
  4. They see themselves in the light of Jesus. For those people, Jesus informs their self-worth and identity. He is their center and their greatest reward.

This was a series for those of us that are 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s but want to become 4’s.

“He needs to become greater; I need to become less.” John 3:30 (NIV)

As one last revisit, I thought I’d share three tools that we all need to focus on if we’re really going to become people that see ourselves in light of Jesus and live to know Him more…

#1 – Pause & Pray

Spend time with Jesus. You’re probably like most of us: you’re extremely busy. The “to do” list is so long that something, many things, are going to get left off it! So, how do you choose what to do? You start with what’s at the center. Spend time with Jesus. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. And then respond to what He tells you!

#2 – Focus On Scripture

If you want to keep doing the same things and get more of Jesus, you’re probably in for a sad reality… that doesn’t work. You’re going to need to change! But change what? That’s where the Scriptures should be informing our lives. You struggle with fear? Memorize some scripture that talks about faith. Dealing with worry? There’s scripture for that too! When you do what’s been normal, recite what the Scriptures say to yourself and take the lies captive by the truth (see: 2 Corinthians 10:2-6 NIV).

#3 – Rely On Simple Obedience

You’re not in a race. Or a fashion show. Or a parade. Living for Jesus means that we are called to follow Him (Mark 1:17). Stop competing with your neighbor. Stop trying to look a certain way or act a certain way. Stop trying give off the right image! Jesus has asked YOU to follow HIM, and if you’re going to get more of HIM you’re going to need to respond to Him!

What tools am I missing? Leave a comment below and let me know.

ONE Way To Increase Your JOY Right Now

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The world wants to be happy.

It’s just starting to warm up outside. Spring is in the air. You know what that means? The grass is growing! It’s just… the grass is greener in our neighbor’s yard, right?

Over the years, I’ve heard happiness used as an excuse for pretty much everything: “I’m just not happy, so I’m going to ____________.” Fill in that blank with divorce, leaving a church, walking away from friendships, etc.

The Scriptures never promise you happiness, but they do promise you joy.

What’s the difference between happiness and joy?

Happiness is circumstantial. It’s based on right now, and if you chase it your life will always be shifting as though it was built upon sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

Joy is eternal and the product of life lived following the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22).

Many of us think about our happiness this way…
“I would finally be happy if I just had _____________.”

You fill in the blank. Perhaps you’d say “more money”, maybe it would be “a more caring husband”, or maybe “a better boss”.

Solomon was one of the richest men in all of human history. As King of Israel during one of it’s premier periods, he was both wealthy and powerful.

In Ecclesiastes 6:2, Solomon wrote: “God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.”

That thing you think you need to be happy? That’s a lie.

You think you need that kind of husband to be joyous? Wrong.

Your life would be filled with joy if other people treated you the right way? Wrong.

More money in your bank account would surely mean more joy! Wrong.

For the last two weeks we’ve looked at moment in Scripture where John the Baptist is confronted with the growing ministry of Jesus. John has been very successful. His numbers have been great, but they’re shrinking.

His followers come to him with this complaint:
“Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” (John 3:26 NIV)

John the Baptist responded this way, and there’s a key to living with JOY hidden in his response…
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:27-30 NIV)

John frames life this way:

  • You only have what God has given you.
  • You’re not Jesus.
  • The greatest Joy in life is Jesus.
  • To fully embrace what God wants to give us through Jesus, we must empty ourselves of us.

So what’s the greatest enemy to your joy? You are!

As John saw Jesus emerging, he embraced the change because he knew he wasn’t the Messiah! His heart was full of joy even when he was second place, because he wasn’t full of himself and found His greatest joy in Jesus.

The one thing you can do RIGHT NOW to dramatically increase your joy is this: look into the mirror and say “Forget You”.

There’s no room for JOY if your life is full of you, because Jesus is joy!

How are you going to empty yourself so that you can more fully embrace Jesus today?

3 Ways To A Better Day

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There’s three different type of people out there today:

Person #1 – You’re so excited it’s Wednesday, you’re like the camel on that “Hump Day” commercial.
Person #2 – You’re coasting today.
Person #3 – Today has pretty much been the worst day ever.

For everyone, no matter how good or bad today is going, here’s three things you can do to change your day for the better:

1. Call someone you know who’s hurting.

We all know someone who’s lost someone, is battling cancer, or has just been having a rough go of it. The bible asks us to celebrate with our friends, but also to grieve with them (Romans 12:15-16). The presence of their pain will help provide a better perspective of yours.

2. Take a moment and tell the people who you love deeply why you love them.

We say “I love you” a lot around our home, but those intentional conversations to stop and say “I love you because…” matter. You know who they matter to? You. They matter to you because they force you to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the people that you love. Those conversations encourage them, but they also refocus us on why we love them and should leave us feeling thankful that they’re in our lives.

3. Identify one thing that’s robbing you of Jesus.

It might be something as simple as checking Instagram at stoplights, which robs your commute of the ability to have a conversation with Jesus. It might be that you’re too focused on people and forget to talk to Jesus altogether. It might be that you’ve neglected the Scriptures, and you know you can find Jesus in them. Find that one thing, go after it, and let Jesus be greater in your life today.

The quickest way to joy is to empty your life of yourself:
“Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled… He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30 NKJV)

Leave a comment below and let know what you’re doing today to have less of yourself and more of Jesus in your life:

Your Greatest Enemy

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We’ve all been fed lines about what our greatest enemy could be.

Everything from drugs, to alcohol, to demons, and even the ultimate adversary of the Devil has worn the title of “greatest enemy”.

It’s tough to consider that you’d want to do something good and there’d be resistance to it. Why wouldn’t the whole world want you to get better, to do the right thing? (see John16:33)

Right now you have an enemy that could derail your capacity to follow Jesus.

And that enemy is reading this blog.

Yep. That enemy is reading right along with you right now.

Your greatest enemy might not be those things we’ve so readily identified as enemies through the years, but it might, instead, just simply be yourself.

In the third chapter of the Gospel of John, John the Baptist is faced with a serious situation. Some of his followers are leaving to go listen to a new preacher down the street. The guys that have been following him are concerned. They’re worried about their numbers that seem a little down and the number of people coming to hear this new preacher. His disciples start complaining.

John replies: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30 NIV)

The new preacher with the larger crowds was Jesus.

Jesus is the messiah. Jesus came to rescue us from sin. Jesus is God’s Son.

John the Baptist was simply preparing the way. He wasn’t confused about who he was.

“He must become greater” because I’m not the Messiah and I can’t ransom the world from sin.

“I must become less.”

The greatest enemy to a growing relationship with Jesus is a large ego. You have to lose you, so there might be less of you, if there’s ever going to be more of Jesus.

Let go of you and get more of Jesus… sounds like a good deal to me!

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